My Gift to You this Holiday Season is a…Big Hug.

A truly big hug that lets you know how much I care for you, value you, and am grateful for your presence in my life. Whether I have known you for years, months, weeks, days, or not at all…may I share a hug with you?

Our dear friend, Steve Cochran, said, “If you want a great hug…ask Gail.”

Well, here I am, sending hugs to each of you and asking you to share this great experience with other human beings.

And I also want to share this “definition” of a hug by Bryan Reeves, a former Air Force captain who’s now a life breakthrough coach.* Bryan describes a truly great hug as “….a rich experience that has you pull another human body deliciously tight into yours as a way of saying, ‘I so deeply value your presence that I’m taking this exact moment to feel you, smell you, breathe with you—essentially stamp your being into my cellular memory so that, even though we may be soon apart, you will in fact always be with me in the living fabric of my existence.’”

My grandchildren know they’ll always be greeted by this grandma with arms wide open and then enclosed in that delicious BIG HUG. (Well, one of the three kids enjoys the experience). I look forward to a group hug that lasts a long time. I need to express my depth of love for each of them through the art of hugging. Sorry, kids, that’s just the way it is…and always will be…as long as I have the strength to spread my arms wide and welcome you into my loving embrace.

Need hugging lessons? Bryan Reeves has it down step-by-step in his blog post, “How to Give a Great Hug”:

  • Hug like you mean it.

Hugging some people is like embracing a telephone pole…but a truly great hug is definitely a two-person co-created gig. However, some people just aren’t ready for a truly great hug, for whatever reason. They might not be comfortable with affection, might be in a rush, or they simply might not trust you, regardless of whether they have good reason. A great hug can quickly turn into a creepy hug when you feel your partner initiate the disconnect, but you won’t let go. So, hug like you mean it, but if you feel your partner move to let go, let go and live to hug another day….

  • Be willing to be vulnerable. Open your arms.

The act of hugging is an inherently vulnerable act. As we open our arms, we expose our chest, our very heart, to the person before us. It’s a complete gesture of vulnerability, letting the other person know that we trust them enough in this moment to grant them passage into our personal space. You can’t experience a truly great hug if you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable. That’s why so many hugs today are stiff and unsatisfying. Too many of us are afraid to let each other in. So if you’re with someone you know will behave respectfully inside your embrace, take the risk and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Open your arms and….

  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe into the embrace.

Once the embrace has begun, rather than immediately unplug the hug before an authentic embrace has even happened, simply take a deep breath. Allow yourself at least one deep breath before you even think about releasing. You might find both bodies spontaneously synchronize to each other’s breathing. Breathing in harmony with another body pressed against yours is a wondrous experience. So often, we quickly disconnect our hugs because we’re afraid of holding the other beyond their comfort zone. But you’ll be amazed how many people in our world are starving for affection. We don’t lovingly touch each other enough. We’re literally dying to be touched. That longer, deeper embrace you’re willing to share just might be the medicine the person you’re embracing needs.

  • Lean into the embrace.

I’m [this is Bryan talking here] not a fan of the “tent hug.” That hug where we create a tent by sticking our butts out so far we don’t touch too much. Look, we’re creating a non-sexual hug here, but it’s OK that our bodies…really meet each other. Our chakras all lined up and zapping each other with good vibes. Unfortunately, because we live in a culture so sexually screwed up (so to speak), a truly great hug does risk jiggling repressed sexual hot buttons we don’t want jiggled. So, find the balance. There’s little less satisfying than hugging someone so afraid of hugging me back that I can feel them exiting before we’ve even begun. Just find the balance.

  • Squeeze, but don’t suffocate.

A true hug is an embrace, an encircling, a loving act of surrounding another to let them know they are safe, accepted, loved. Beyond the superficial world available to our mortal eyes, a genuine embrace is a deep form of embodied communication by which one beating heart can whisper to another, “I see you.” A great big hug is definitely NOT an imposition on another. We do not temporarily imprison another in our arms. Rather, it’s firm enough to say “I’ve got you” and loose enough to say “you’re free to leave whenever you want.”

I [now it’s me, Gail] must admit I have to work on that last one, #6. I do tend to suffocate my grandchildren. I’m sorry, kids. I just love you SO MUCH.

  • Just BE with the person you’re embracing.

A truly great hug is a deeply mindful practice. It’s a moment to really be with another human. The very gesture itself is a curious, even if ultimately futile, attempt by two bodies to occupy the same space at the same time. We’re literally pressing our bodies together as if to say, let’s just both be here together, as one body, in this one place, at this very moment in time. It’s an extraordinary gesture. Give yourself to the experience and really be here, in this brief moment, with this one person….Be here now.

  • Let go. Smile. Breathe.

Absolutely nothing in life is meant to last forever. A truly great hug ends with the simple act of letting go. Letting go is one of the most powerful lessons we can learn in this lifetime….If you do it right, that great hug will linger with you like sweet perfume for a brief moment, and you’ll be able to recall it in your mind whenever you want to. Nonetheless, it’s time for you both to let go and return to your separate journeys. Just know that the electrical magnetic field of your two heartbeats intertwined in that embrace and so you are, indeed, now indelibly marked by each other’s being. You literally carry information about each other in your bodies. And that’s no woo-woo metaphysics! That’s for real! **

….Now get out there and hug somebody like you mean it! Lives may very well depend on it…and love definitely does!

Good stuff, isn’t it? If you don’t have someone to hug, Bryan suggests this: wrap your arms around yourself and gently squeeze. It’s not nearly as great as hugging another human being, but it is a good way to stretch your shoulders!

Pay it forward, dear friends. Hug those you love, and love those you hug, if only for a brief moment in time.

During this holiday season—and all seasons—I send you my biggest, best, most heartfelt hug… and hope you hug me in return.

I wish you and your loved ones all of life’s blessings…and the life-giving gift of big hugs.


*Bryan Reeves is a former captain in the U.S. Air Force, a life breakthrough coach, and transformational projects entrepreneur who has worked alongside such luminaries as the Dali Lama’s Oracle of Tibet, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Byron Katie, Don Miguel Ruiz, Marianne Williamson, Michael Beckwith, and many more. Discover Bryan at ManagingThe

**For the science behind this, Bryan cites The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Communication Within and Between People, by Rollin McCraty, PhD. It’s a chapter published in Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine, edited by P. J. Rosch and M. S. Markov. (New York: Marcel Dekker, 2004: 541-562).